An acquaintance of mine, a person of comfortable means who owns a beautiful house, mentioned at a party to me how she wishes the men who congregate in front of the 7-Eleven would be not allowed to do so, because they are an eyesore in town. I told her I agreed they should not have to stand out there in the terrible cold and left it at that. I didn’t pursue it as normally I would, because at the time it seemed inappropriate to the conviviality of the gathering. So I will try to make amends here.
How astonishing that such openly, unabashed greed and selfishness can now be thought to be socially acceptable. I wish I had said that I am certain those men themselves would also like not to stand there in the terrible cold, because it is cruel and inhumane. A rich community like ours could easily afford to build a workplace where these men, who so immeasurably contribute to building and maintaining our beautiful town, could come out of the cold and have facilities we would wish for ourselves, for our children or for our parents.
A simple bench to sit on out of the elements, a place with a bathroom and water, a place where they would feel they were not on display. A place out of the pitiless glare of people who disdain, condemn and even mock them for not having decent shelter; out of the humiliating gaze of comfortable people hopping out of expensive vehicles, who despise their being down and out and their need to work. A place where people knew their names and would love to see the precious photos of their loved ones, for whom they work so honestly and so hard to be able to put food on their table, and to see that their kids could go to school and have a chance for what they perhaps didn’t have.
Hundreds of communities across the country provide such sheltered workplaces for day laborers; there are four communities on Long Island that do so, communities with far less resources than ours. It is a shame that the most heartless feel the need to shout the loudest their hauteur, their scorn and their snobbishness at people with so much less than what we have and take for granted.
Southampton Press 02/17/04
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